It is indeed a small world. Here I sit at my desk in Maine tonight and decide to see what Theophilos at Domina Graecia has written about today in Athens. I have never met him, yet feel a certain unexplainable kinship, despite the distance. Like the others, such as Simon, Hermes, Margaret, Kat, Kosta, Demonax, Ismini, or Susan, he comes into my blog life, unexpectedly. We find things that we have in common, things that unite us despite the miles between us. Fate brings us together and then fate plays its tricks. To my surprise I come across a photo he recently took:
In an instant, the memories began flooding back. They carried me back to another time and place. My wife Anna grew up in the prosfigika (refugee), as they are referred to by the locals, in the Kesariani section of Athens (very similar to the one's depicted with accompanying bullet holes). During our courtship and newlywed days I spent my share of time visiting her parent's small apartment. Those were good times and I remember them with a good deal of nostalgia.
Then I noticed a comment Margaret had written about Theo's post and smiled:
"I think your pink aerosol circles are a great addition to these buildings, and I really like the last two photos. They make the building look like a strong metaphor for life, tattered, battered, scarred, mostly closed up, but with just one window and a door ajar. Surprisingly colourful. Somehow defiant."
M, how utterly and totally on the mark you are. That facade, tattered though it is and reflective of the tragedies its inhabitant's have endured, always represented something special and valuable to me. Inside were people who not only endured life's barbed arrows but also cherished the simple pleasures that life had to offer. Doors were always open and people moved back and forth from one apartment to another. They shared their food, laughter, hope, success and failures. Sometimes they shared their sorrows and tears. No matter how scarred on the outside, on the inside the heartbeat was strong and vital.
My in-laws' tiny apartment faced a very busy thoroughfare named Leoforos Vassilias Alexandrou. The traffic and the noise never stopped, no matter how late. The other side of their apartment faced a courtyard with trees. The turbulence couldn't penetrate the thick fortress-like walls. My mother-in law Maria had created an oasis on her balcony that smelled of fresh basil,flowers, onions, garlic and olive oil. I remember my father-in-law Christos, smoking his stub of a cigarette while seated on a wooden chair, one leg folded over the other, as he philosophized about life in general and his in particular. I remember sitting there, leaning back in my wooden chair and with my legs propped up on the low cement wall drinking a coffee, ice cold, with a frothy top like a milk shake. I was surrounded by greenery dripping cold water, and an atmosphere inundated with laughter and smiles. Every so often Anna would sneak a peak at me and smile and I would smile back at her.
These buildings will eventually make way for new ones. In Greece nothing happens quickly. They will probably have shops with large showrooms visible at street level and piled high with expensive imported goods. Their inhabitants will live in spacious apartments and spend their time watching their big screens and drinking coffee from their espresso machines. They will have no idea who their next door neighbor is, nor will they care. In the long run, perhaps the outside of a building doesn't tell us as much about what is on the inside of the people in it or then again, maybe it does.